Have Tea, Will Travel

Wao Tea’s nomadic tea experience

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Wao Tea provides tea experiences for everything from weddings to corporate events. Photo credit: Courtesy Wao Tea

By now, we’re used to the word “nomad” as a trusted marketing gimmick. Digital nomadism is a worldwide trend, ethically made clothes and shoes for chic “nomads” are a thing—but how about nomadic tea experiences?

The concept, pioneered by Christina-Jade Brunel of Wao Tea, still sounds fresh and intriguing. Based in Novato, but not for much longer, Wao Tea is many things at once; an online tea shop with a curated selection of rare and curious teas, a provider of guided tea tours through China and a destination for anyone who might be interested in ceremonial tea meditations and private lessons centered around the ancient traditions of tea consumption.

As with all things emerging, the concept might be confusing at first sight, but for Brunel, it couldn’t make more sense.

“I am available to bring the practice of tea to different types of occasions in the Bay Area—baby blessings, weddings, corporate events, wellness events, conventions, women circles, retreats, workshops,” she explains. “It is an offering that can be shared in different types of settings. Tea is my form of language to communicate and share the essence of my experience with holistic medicine and spirituality.”

Featuring enviable cheekbones and the hair of a goddess, Brunel exhibits a similarly diverse background—she’s a French-Canadian who spent the last decade studying different forms of holistic medicine in Europe, Asia and Canada. Among her accolades are tea practitioner, certified yoga instructor, massage therapist and life coach; and she lived in Asia, Switzerland and French Polynesia prior to moving to the Bay Area and settling in Marin in 2017.

The nomadic spirit came calling, though:

“My partner and I recently decided to move to New Mexico, inspired by the enchanting and spiritual energy of the lands,” says Brunel. “We love how spacious it feels to be in Taos, New Mexico. It will allow us more time to be dedicated in our offerings, with less financial pressure.” Wao Tea will remain in the Bay Area, offering classes and ceremonies through collaborators and local teachers, and Brunel vows to visit for work multiple times a year.

Brunel was first introduced to the spiritual side of tea while living in Asia.

“I was studying Chinese acupressure and ended up in a tea space in Malaysia where I had the chance to connect with inspiring teachers,” she says. “My journey led me to the tea plantations of China and Japan, where I had the occasion to study with tea farmers and tea producers. I have also studied tea with a family of tea practitioners in Switzerland.”

Eventually, Brunel began sharing her accumulated knowledge and practices in retreats, founding Wao Tea in 2017, “to share the precious tea that I was selecting and curating directly from the tea plantations of China and Japan,” she says.

You’ll find her on Instagram—sitting in a circle with women, welcoming a new baby into the family or admiring tea leaves and dressed in a soothing white in exotic locales. To Brunel, there couldn’t be a better time for tea.

“A tea ceremony is a time-honored container, an occasion to sit in community, humbled by the leaves of an ancient plant inviting us to remember the way of nature within us and all around us,” she says. “Tea ceremony is shared in the form of meditation, inviting us to slow down, to cultivate presence and mindfulness. It is a practice encouraging peace, balance, connection and gratitude.”

Roll your eyes at mindfulness all you like, but there’s something concrete and comforting about meditating around a fragrant drink and its origins—certainly more comforting than mindless scrolling. For those who are hesitant about spiritual practice, Wao Tea also offers knowledge-heavy courses, online or in person. Together with her students, Brunel explores the origin, history and evolution of the tea practice; the different tea varieties; the ecology of the plant; the elemental wisdom of tea; the influence of Chinese Gongfu cha, Japanese Senchado, Taoism and Zen on the practice; and how to host a Ceremonial Tea Meditation.

“I am also currently co-creating a Tea Book that will be available in Fall 2020,” Brunel adds. When it comes out, even the remotest of nomads will be able to order it through Amazon.

For more information, visit waotea.com.

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